Waikiki businesses battle growing peddling problem

Waikiki has had more than its share of problems with prostitution and street performers. Now, regulars are concerned about a different type of peddling that involves tours at different attractions.

Street hawkers who hand out flyers promoting tours around the island aren’t doing anything wrong, until they ask for money as a deposit. Then it becomes peddling, which is illegal in Waikiki.

Honolulu Police Dept. says officers made 22 arrests and handed out eight citations last year in Waikiki for peddling. This year, there have been six arrests, five citations and three warnings so far.

According to business owners and the head of the Waikiki Improvement Association, peddlers hurt everyone, especially if the problem continues to grow.

“This hurts everybody. It hurts the businesses, it hurts me and my people,” said Michael Swam, who owns Hawaii Activity Hut. Swam said he’s upset that his competition is booking tours using street hawkers on the sidewalk while he pays thousands of dollars a month to have his kiosk do the same thing.

“They’re all working under the table. They’re making straight cash business and they’re bleeding off of our physical locations we pay for to be at,” Swam said.

Swam said visitors who book their tours through these illegal vendors could get ripped off, because tourists often mistake the illegal peddlers as part of his kiosk.

“If people come and they want to get refunds for activities and they can’t find that guy and they come to me, I’m not going to give them money that we didn’t collect,” he said. “It becomes a real issue for the tourist.”

Hawkers KHON2 approached on the street all said they’ve never taken any money up front because they know it’s illegal.

But Waikiki neighborhood board member Walt Flood said otherwise, telling KHON2 a peddler once told him he could accept cash or credit card for a $40 deposit. “He showed me a little tablet, just punch in your numbers and take the credit card and that’s your deposit,” he said.

Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, said he’s received complaints and has talked to HPD about the problem.

“If you don’t stay on top of a situation like this, obviously one person sees another person doing it and not being called on it, therefore it can spread, so it’s something you always have to be vigilant about,” Egged said.

Cracking down could prove tough. Officers actually have see the peddler accepting money before they can make an arrest, authorities said.

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